They were the headliners in UNLV’s recruiting class, four-star prospects expected to make a strong impression this season.
Adjusting to the college level wasn’t easy, however, for Bryce Hamilton and Trey Woodbury, who watched other freshmen — including walk-on Marvin Coleman — often receive more playing time at crucial moments.
It’s tempting to label both as recruiting misses, especially when freshmen nationwide are often impact players, but UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said he remains solidly behind them.
“The most important thing about those two, I think, is their buy-in and their understanding that it is a process,” Menzies said. “I’m sure their expectations were a lot higher. We told them exactly how things were going to be when we recruited them and what they were going to have to do to be successful to get on the floor, earn minutes, things of that nature.
“To their credit, when things didn’t go exactly their way, they persevered through it. They’re keeping their heads down and just working, so I like that. In retrospect, you say, ‘I wish we could’ve played these guys 15, 20 minutes a game apiece.’ The situations didn’t allow for that, but we do want to play them as much as we can when we have the opportunity because they’re two integral parts of our future.”
Hamilton, a 6-foot-4-inch guard, has received more minutes recently as the Rebels (12-11, 6-5 Mountain West) prepare to welcome Air Force (10-13, 5-6) to the Thomas & Mack Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. CBS Sports Network will televise the game.
He has played 36 minutes over the past two games after receiving a total of 35 minutes over the previous four.
Hamilton has shown glimpses of why he was a prized prospect, making all three 3-pointers and scoring 16 points against UC Riverside and scoring 12 points against San Jose State. But Hamilton has been a defensive liability and made just 36.9 percent of his shots while averaging five points.
“That’s a big transition from high school, much faster, more physical,” Hamilton said. “I expected that. My high school coaches always talked about how much of a difference it is, going to a college game and seeing how they play.”
Woodbury, a 6-foot-4-inch guard who played at Clark High School, injured a knee in training camp. That meant a slow return and limited playing time. He didn’t make his first basket until Christmas Day against Bucknell.
He’s still struggling to find his spot, having received double-digit minutes only once over the past five games, and his defense and general adjustment are still an open question.
Woodbury came to UNLV with the reputation as a strong shooter, and he has shown signs of that. He’s made eight of his past 13 shots (6 of 7 from 3-point range) since Jan. 5.
“Coming into the summer and playing with these guys in open run and through practice for months, I kind of knew what I was getting into and I knew what to expect,” Woodbury said. “But in terms of the game, I’ve learned a lot about the speed, what it takes to get open. There are things that are different at this level.”